Donor Family Voices Archive
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From the Summer 2007 issue of For Those Who Give and Grieve.

Suicide survivors (families and friends affected by a suicide death) often experience a wide range of mixed emotions following the death. Many other people are unsure of how to discuss a suicide death with a survivor. If you have been affected by a suicide, what has helped you cope with this difficult loss in your life? In what ways are you struggling? Have you used a support group and if so, was it beneficial? What are examples of the more supportive and helpful observations you received from others following the death of your loved one? Is there anything you want to say to other families who are going through this experience?

My son Jeremy was ill the last 8 months of his life and we knew it. Since he had always been just the opposite, very athletic and outgoing it was not in his nature to be sick. Our family and friends rallied around him to try and help him get back to being healthy and active like he had always been. I never expected to receive a call saying he had ended his own life. I personally went numb with receiving that news. Our lives would forever be changed. Those who have never experienced this kind of thing can't imagine the lingering pain you go through for YOU to get back to some sort of "normal". I would call it "overwhelming" grief and the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. I have had callous people ask me if he was on drugs, or either say something stupid like, the funeral was over last year. From a Mother's perspective it is NEVER over, it is with you always. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him in some way. He was my first born and an only child for 10 years. I personally had to give it to God for me to be able to handle it. I am very thankful for great family and wonderful friends who allowed me to do whatever it took for me to be whole again. I also have two other sons that needed their Mother to be strong. I can personally say the first year is the worst and the hardest. Time heals all things. I feel like in time the pain will be not as hard for me to bear and this has proved to be the case. You see, Jeremy was an organ donor, we had discussed this in many of our conversations but I never thought I would have to grant his wish. I have personally met two of his recipients and if it had to be, Jeremy has saved the lives of all those who have received "the gift of life"! I miss him terribly and Flag Day, June 14 is his birthday! He would have been 31, gosh am I getting old! To be able to look into the receipients eyes and see the look on their faces, tells me each day that I made the right decision in my worst hour. Their gratitude towards me and their interest in Jeremy and me helps me to heal and go on. First, give it to God, it is way too big to handle on your own. Lean on your family and friends, they will let you know how much they love you, where you can live again! There is no prescription for grief, everyone does what works for them. I keep my private moments private, and I try to laugh and stay positive, why??? Because Jeremy would not want me to be sad. Thanks for listening to our story. Pat J. Kupfer (Jeremy D. Youngman's Mom!)

Posted by: Pat J. Kupfer

Our youngest son, aged 17 at the time, took his own life in November, 2000. It was very important for us to find something positive in this tragedy, and being able to donate his organs helped a lot. We also joined a support group of suicide survivors. These people listened to our story and provided the support that only those who have experienced this tragedy firsthand can give. We struggle evey day with our loss but have done four walks in our son's memory - each about 20 miles overnight to bring this devastating issue "out of the darkness". We would advise those going through this experience to just take things one step at a time and do whatever it takes to keep the memories alive. Also, it's very important to remember how very much you loved the one you lost and how you would have done anything to prevent this from happening.

Posted by: Karen & Gordon Amidon

I am a 47 year old donor mom. On Feb. 1st 1997, my 15 year old daughter committed suicide by a gun shot to the head. She was pronounced brain dead and I was given a choice to donate her organs. We live in a small rural town and this was a shock to the whole community.The surgery to retrieve her organs was performed in our small hospital and there had to be police escorts to and from an airport one hour away. There was so much activity and confusion going on around me. I feel that young teenagers don't realize that what they are doing is permanent. It is a quick decision to end what is hurting at the moment. Being a survivor has changed my life drastically. I feel that there is a stigma stamped on me for life and that I will forever be identified as the mother whom her daughter killed herself. The worse pain of dealing with suicide for myself is living with the guilt. I feel that I could of done something to prevent this from happening. I haven't went to any support group due to the fact that there isn't one around for suicide survivors.I feel that in order to have a support group, all involved have to be on common ground to be able to help each other. Talking about suicide is such a closed subject. It needs to be brought out in the open because I feel that alot of people have thought about it but can't talk about it. Being with family and friends have been supportive. I have has the pleasure of meeting her heart recipient and corresponding with her.I know that I have made the right decision by donating her organs.
Beverly Key

Posted by: Beverly Key

I lost my youngest son to suicide, this has been the most sad thing that has happened to my family.We have made it through knowing that God is with us each and every day. Damian was a precious son. thank God for the twentysix years He loaned him to me. We have to learn to enjoy our children each and every day as we do not know when they will be taken away from us.Please do not blame yourselves thinking you did something wrong, I was at home along with his dad when he took his life and we could not save him.He spoke to me just minutes before, he was pretty calm. Do not be afraid to cry or to talk about your love one. I think about him every minute and every hour of every day.His pictures are every place in my home.God bless each one of you as you continue to live on the precious memories.

Posted by: Enid Davis

my son was 16 when hee commited suiside he was a organ,tissuse, and eye donor have i a hard time talking about it except with some family members i have been in conseling 3 times since then i have been in a support group i find it when his birthday and the day he died very hard it has been all most 9 yrs since his passing it still carry around alot of guilt of why didnt i see it coming what else i could have done if you want more onfo please email me thank you

Posted by: phyllis keith

I became a donner mom on August 15th 2005. My son was 40 the father of 4. at first I was very angery at him for choosing to leave us. I had another son who passed away in 1990. He had some sort of virus attack his heart and in 12 days he was gone bur not by his own hand and I could accept that. Dan was different he was the baby of the family. After being mad at him I turned it to me , I felt very guilty for not seeing how he was hurting that he could do this. He left a note for his son who was 17 at the time. all it said "sorry Bub it has to be this way" I have gone to therepy trying to understand how he could take his life knowing he had children, and a mother who loved him very much.I spent hours writing it all down, why I thought he chose the way he did. I have forgiven him.writing it all out why I thought he did it and why he should not have I came to understand that he was really sick and none of us could have stoped him. My grandson and I go to counseling together yet. His life was really changed . He lived with his Dad. Two of the children lived with thier Mom and the oldest lived out of the home. My grandson and I confort each other. He also was very angrey but with Gods help he is comming around. I thank God every day he did not turn to drugs for confort. He will be going in the Navy soon and I am very Proud of him. I berried Dan next to his brother and visit them often. Sometines I can talk about it and other times It still hurts too much that I did not know the Pain he was in that caused him to do that to himself and to all of us. He took away something we all loved very much and did not let us know why . The why is what still bothers me. I am told time and again
" because he was sick"
Why did I not see it.
Mary clark

Posted by: Mary Clark

How I became a donor Mom.

It started a long time ago... When I was about 20 and in the military, stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC; a friend passed away for the want of an organ. I signed up as a donor the next time I renewed my license. Now being young I specified “any needed organ's ... no extremities. I was not as informed about the process of tissue donation as I am today.
Fast forward to July 1980, My daughter passed away when she was seven, she was horseback riding with friends. I was in Virginia, she was spending the summer with friends in California. I was young, all of 25 years old. I got the call about her accident, I called Maureen at the hospital, and was told of the extent of her injuries. I was not told to call the doctors. I made the plans to get to California as quickly as was possible for emergency leave from the Army. Because of my not calling the doctors or the hospital directly, her organs were not used to save another persons (probably a child's) life. It is perhaps the biggest regret I have in my life.

Some years later when my son's were turning the age to get their drivers license, as they studied the book the question came up about organ donation. what does that mean?

I explained to my son's, that should they pass away, that if they choose to be an organ donor, that another person's life could be saved.

As a Mom, I didn't want to think about that, but, I agreed that I would sign the paperwork so they could be a DONOR.

Dan, my older son, and James my younger son both said they would want that.

James moved to Las Vegas, when he was 18 for a couple of years, when he returned he had his Nevada drivers license, On it he showed me... and said “Mom I wanted you to know, that I have chosen to be an Organ Donor.

On November 3, 2003, I was faced with the fact that my son would not survive the injuries he had sustained. I quickly knew what I had to do. I told the ambulance crew, that he was an Organ Donor, and I only wanted live support to that end.

It was a hard fact to face. But it was spiritually the easiest decision that I have ever had to make.

Due to the injuries, and the Doctors, despite their best efforts, were unable to keep his heart going in order to make that possible. Consequently, only his corneas were used. I am delighted to know that a little girl who was then 2 can see, and a woman of 45 also regained her sight. A little girl that will be able to read, and run and play, and do all the things little girls should do! A woman, who can see to read to her grand babies, and see the color of their hair, and eyes!

I pray that they only see beauty in their lives.

I thank the Doctors that made this possible.

I am proud of my son, who made sure that I knew he wanted to be an Organ Donor. I love you James!

I wrote the above a while back.

To answer specific questions...

What has helped you cope with this difficult loss in your life? My faith in God, I know that God was with James through his struggle... I know that God loved him and understood his pain, even when I could not!

What are examples of the more supportive and helpful observations you received from others following a loved one's death by suicide?

A friend who is a counselor said to me... "Joyce, if all you can manage to do today is breathe, YOU have accomplished a great deal.

I would tell everyone... you must tell your loved ones you love them daily.

My older son, said to me "Mom, if you didn't recognize that James was suicidal, then no one else could have seen it."

As much pain as I suffered from this act, I know that my child had to be suffering much more than I was in the time following this.

God loves us even when we feel we are unlovable, or un loved.

I am blessed that my pastor is also a counselor. I am a sociologist with a background in social work. Knowing the things I know I understand that it was nothing that I could have done to prevent it, postpone it perhaps. but not prevent.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me. Joyce sanbowers, Mom of James DeMonbrun Donor. Jean Marie Voss who passed away at 7 1/2 years old.

And one living Son Dan DeMonbrun.

Posted by: Joyce DeMonbrun Sanbowers